The rain was pounding hard as I waited in the vehicle. Just ahead, 4 feet of land stood between me and the open sea. I like rain, but not enough to paddle during a thunderstorm. I continued waiting for a break. Adrift, that was the idea. A lone castaway with nothing but the H1 Spyderco Aqua Salt and my canoe. The destination, an uninhabited barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. No amenities, no water, and because of a rainy weekend, I wouldn’t be bothered by the people who anchor boats there and party all day. Nothing but the knife; that was the rule to be followed. Going out there purposely without anything else would be a fool’s formula, so I included a “back-up” dry bag in the front of my tiny, one-man canoe with a small amount of food, cell phone, some tinder, and plenty of water if I needed it. The catch was I wasn’t allowed to open the bag unless I physically showed the signs of bad dehydration. I was not going to use the water or the food, but I did have some camera gear along for the ride as well as bug repellent and sunscreen. No shelter or tarp was taken. The trip resembled one of the popular reality survival shows. I wish I could have made the trip longer, but reality and my job wouldn’t allow it.
The Test Subject
I called Roger from knifeworks.com, as he was the only one around who had the plain edge Aqua Salt in yellow. He was nice enough to send me one right away, and I received it in the mail in time to make my trip possible that weekend. The plain edge Aqua Salts are popular and many dealers are sold out. The Spyderco Aqua Salt is made out of H1 steel and has a fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) handle and sheath. Some of these so-called wonder plastics still break, chip or crack in cold weather. The FRN handle did none of these. The handle, available in both yellow and black, is textured in a bidirectional volcanic grip that enabled me to have firm control even when my hands were covered in mud and fish slime. Having a high visibility knife around water is a very good idea. While digging for clams, I didn’t click the knife back into the sheath properly and it fell out. A few minutes after realizing this, I tracked myself back, pessimistic about losing another knife. Suddenly, my eyes were drawn to an odd yellow color buried in the cloudy, muddy water. I had found the Aqua Salt. I am sure I would not have found it if it had the black handle.
The Spyderco Aqua Salt is made of Japanese H1 steel. Water alone rusts metal slowly, but the chemical composition of saltwater makes it an evil mix on the surface of any metal. Enter Spyderco’s H1 steel. It takes the carbon out of the blade and puts nitrogen in it, making rust chemically impossible. The rust-free steel acts like carbon steel on the sharpening block.
The Three-Day Excursion
Once the rain had subsided, I entered the Intercoastal Waterway. After paddling a few miles, I landed the boat in knee-deep mud and made an attempt to get to the hard sand on the island itself. Slopping through the muck, I almost face planted on an oyster bed as I got tangled in some rope from an old forgotten crab trap. No worries. Out came the Spyderco and with a quick cut my entangled foot was free. I reached the destination and there was no sign of human life in both directions for as far as I could see. I had to get to work before sunset.
The Aqua Salt easily clicked out of the sheath and I began to use the knife to make one of the most important tools I fashioned during the entire trip, a digging stick. Carving with the Aqua Salt proved easy; the handle was thick and rounded enough to allow for a suitable grip. My fingers cradled the belly of the handle as I fashioned more tools out of the scarce driftwood, as there were hardly any saplings around. Using the newly fashioned digging stick, I anchored my canoe in a traditional voyageur shelter fashion utilizing some sticks to prop it up, producing a lean-to.
Collecting water from overturned seashells provided me with the liquid nourishment I needed, while the knife provided me with everything else. It helped me chop down about the only piece of yucca I could find without larval stem borer damage. I had a coal made quickly with a bow drill, utilizing the hat string from my Tilley for the cord. The Aqua Salt cut the notches and whittled the points and the socket effortlessly.
I used the Aqua Salt to baton the longest piece of wood I have ever batoned so far, a long plank of driftwood. The H1 steel cut through it well, and I had a spear/crab pinning stick at the ready. I saw evidence of two dug-up loggerhead nests from some nefarious canine that had made the island his—maybe a fox or a coyote that could swim well. There was a full moon as I let my eyes adjust to the darkness; the yellow handle of the Aqua Salt seemed to glow in the rays of the red orb above. I moved out on the beach.
I used my Aqua Salt on more than one occasion to pin down crabs and take off the claws. Cooking them on the fire was no problem because I used the Aqua Salt to make camp gadgets. In the morning, I gathered some oysters and clams while the tide was right, and used the FRN handle to smash an opening large enough to get the false back edge in there and pry. I used the uncooked ones to attract some other crabs from out of their holes. The Aqua Salt did a slew of other chores on the trip, and I found myself feeling full and satisfied on the paddle back from my three-day castaway trip.
Deep Sea Fishing Test
The Aqua Salt also accompanied me on a deep-sea fishing trip. In the normal belt configuration, the primary function of the Aqua Salt on this trip was as a bait cutter. Cutting pieces of squid, sardines and other baitfish proved easy and it was at my side when I needed it. Other important functions included small shark dispatching when they got out of hand on the boat deck. The knife proved helpful in just about every task except seasickness. Being a thicker blade, it didn’t fillet fish very well but would work if the need arose. The blade did not discolor when it came in contact with fish blood. I intentionally left the blade dirty for a week with fish material, seawater and whatever else it came in contact with. I had to leave it outside—it wasn’t the freshest smelling tool on the block. A week later, some dish soap and the blade looked brand new. The handle grooves cleaned out very well, too. All it took was a light brushing and the handle grip came out sparkling. I also tested a black-handled Aqua Salt with Spyderco’s trademark fully serrated edge. While on the mainland shore, I found an abandoned 5-inch diameter dock hawser to test the serrations on. The knife tore through it like butter and there were no edge dings despite the sand that was infused in the large rope. The serrations also cut through a tough tow strap that I planned to use later as part of my off-road recovery kit.
The FRN sheath of the Aqua Salt would suit a vest well, with many stainless rivets. The g-clip also worked well, as it is designed to clip onto a belt, even integrated belts on nylon pants. The only problem I found with the setup is the use of six star torx screws as a fastener screw for the clip. I don’t understand why more conventional screws wouldn’t work as well. Those six star torx bits are uncommon, especially if you are traveling and don’t have one on you. That can certainly present a problem.
The Spyderco Aqua Salt goes beyond the title of a seaworthy knife. The steel itself and the simplicity of the design make it a good choice for any water-bound outdoorsman. I look forward to seeing what other H1 knives Spyderco comes out with.
The rain was pounding hard as I waited in the vehicle. Just ahead, 4 feet…
by Tactical-Life.com / Mar 20, 2009